Archive | October, 2013


Keystone offers host of programs

Posted on 29 October 2013 by robwas66

Keystone_IOCKeystone Community Services at Merriam Park Community Center will be offering a host of programs in the coming weeks. The Community Center is located at 2000 St. Anthony Ave.

Mon., Nov. 4: Footcare is available at a cost of $20 for a 30 minute appointment.

Nov. 5: Keystone Senior Book Club is on the first Tuesday of the month from 12:30–2pm. Call if interested and they will update you on the book being read.

Nov. 12: 55 Alive AARP Driver Refresher Course will be on Tues, Nov. 12 from noon-4pm. Cost is $15.

Call Keystone Community Services Senior Program (651-645-7424) with any questions or to register for the speakers, classes or other activities.

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Turkey Bingo at St. Columba Nov. 16

Posted on 29 October 2013 by robwas66

TurkeyBingo_IOCFun and feasting, a night of Turkey Bingo, is planned Sat., Nov. 16, at St Columba Church, 1330 Blair Ave. Adult tickets are $20 in advance or or $25 at the door and include a Turkey Buffet Dinner w/ beverage and desert plus 2 Bingo Cards for each game. Bingo play runs about 2 hours with chances to win turkeys as well as special prizes and drawings. Doors open after mass at 5:45 pm with dinner then bingo starting at 6:30pm. For tickets or more info call 651-645-9179 (parish office) or 651-646-4419. Bring neighbors and join this great evening of good laughs and fantastic food.

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Designers selected for Frogtown Farm

Posted on 29 October 2013 by robwas66

FrogtownFarm_IOCA team of designers, led by ReBar Art and Design Studio of San Francisco, was selected to guide the process to design a farm in the Frogtown neighborhood at the former site of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. The Trust for Public Land, the City of St. Paul, and Frogtown residents, are all involved to develop the new 12-acre public park. The educational and working farm will occupy 5 acres of this new 12-acre city park.

The process to design the farm will occur from September 2013 through January 2014. There will be several opportunities for input from neighbors during that time. The goal is to present a final design and plan at the beginning of 2014.

The Frogtown Farm Board of Directors and the City of St. Paul will be seeking volunteers to help plan the new park and farm. For those interested, please contact info@frogtownfarm.org or find them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/FrogtownFarm.

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Economic activity along Green Line reaches 5-year high

Posted on 29 October 2013 by robwas66

OnTheGreenLine_IOCAs construction on the Green Line, formerly known as the Central Corridor (CCLRT), edges closer to completion, St. Paul is seeing economic activity along the line reach pre-recession levels.

Excluding infrastructure permits related to the construction of CCLRT, and still with four months of the year to go, economic investment along the line in 2013 has reached a 5-year high with more than $143 million paid in building permits. Comparatively, 2012 saw $142 million in building permits. These figures show a 49 percent increase in permit valuation activity since 2008.

“After spending years watching crews build the light rail line, the business community is clearly ready to see construction re-shape the buildings and businesses along the Central Corridor,” said Steve Johnson, a Senior Vice President at BankCherokee and chair of the Midway Chamber of Commerce. “After years of hearing so many plans and different ideas about what may happen, the growing number of building permits represents something that is very real and extremely positive.”

Building permits have reached record highs along University Avenue,” said Ann Mullholland, co-Chair of the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. “We have remained committed to ensuring the successful development along the corridor – both for current businesses and residents and those yet to come – and today’s data shows strong movement in the right direction. Imagine what will happen to University Avenue when the Green Line fully opens.”

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Le Leche Group meets on Nov. 12

Posted on 29 October 2013 by robwas66

LeLeche_IOC“The Art of Breastfeeding and Overcoming Difficulties” is the topic of the meeting of the Como-Midway La Leche Group on Tue., Nov. 12. All expectant and nursing mothers are invited to attend with their babies and toddlers. Call Heidi at 651-659-9527 for more information on location and time.

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Registrations open at Northwest Como Rec

Posted on 08 October 2013 by robwas66

IOC_BasketballBasketball Registration has started at Northwest Como Recreation Center for boys and girls, ages 3-14. Registration is taken on a first come first serve basis. To sign up go to www.stpaul.gov/parks, call 651-298-5813 with a credit card, or come into Northwest Como Recreation Center, Mon. thru Thur., 3-8pm or Fri. 3-6pm.

Registration is also now open for:

— Tae Kwon Do, ages 6 and up, on Tues./Thurs.

— Babysitting Training for ages 11 and up on Nov 15.

— Basketball Clinic for ages 8-12 on Oct 17.

— Flag Football Clinic for ages 8-12 on Oct 18


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Habitat for Humanity builds a new home – for itself

Posted on 08 October 2013 by robwas66

Susan Haigh, President and CEO of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, in front of their new headquarters under construction at University Ave. and Prior Ave. in St. Paul. Their new building is expected to be finished this January. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

Susan Haigh, President and CEO of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, in front of their new headquarters under construction at University Ave. and Prior Ave. in St. Paul. Their new building is expected to be finished this January. (Photo by Jill Boogren)


After more than 25 years providing homes to families throughout the metro area, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity will soon be moving into a new home of its own. Construction of their new headquarters at University Ave. and Prior Ave. is underway and expected to be finished in January.

Habitat works to eliminate poverty housing from the Twin Cities by building homes and providing zero-interest mortgage rates for qualifying families. They also help with small-scale home repairs. This year, their 1,000th home was bought and 1,500th repaired, marking two huge milestones for the organization.

“It’s exciting to have those hit as we’re prepared to move into this space in this wonderful community,” said President and CEO Susan Haigh.

Having grown from its origins in a church basement to its current location on 4th St. in Minneapolis, Twin Cities Habitat now serves 56 cities in the seven-county metro area. In a letter to supporters, Haigh said the number of people in need is “skyrocketing” (half of families with incomes under $35,000 spend too much of their income on housing). The current building is “overcrowded, run down and difficult to find.”

“We envision a space where we can serve more families, build more homes, and strengthen our partnerships with communities throughout the region,” wrote Haigh.

The new building will house the organization’s 90 employees, plus 30-40 more people who come and go. It will also serve the many volunteers Habitat relies on to do their work (17,000 people help each year with everything from building homes to doing mailings).

Above all, the new space is being designed for the families. Everyone participating in Habitat’s programs will come to headquarters at some point – for orientation, to take classes, or to close on a mortgage. Accessibility was key.

The site was carefully chosen for its central location between St. Paul and Minneapolis and its proximity to bus stops, and soon, light rail.

“We intentionally built on light rail so families can get to us,” said Habitat spokesperson Matt Haugen. The headquarters are a block west of the Fairview station.

It was also important for the building to be inviting – large windows and its front entrance face University Ave. – and to reflect Habitat’s values.

“It is a welcoming street presence, but yet it is modest,” said Haigh. “It’s not glamorous or lavish. It’s simple. It’s functional. It represents the quality we build in our Habitat homes.”

It will be LEED certified, meaning it will meet high standards for health, energy efficiency and lower operating costs, standards Habitat strives for in its homes as well (15 are LEED certified).

Haugen said all homes use Energy Star appliances and are built with high energy efficiency to minimize heating and fuel costs.

Habitat Homeownership

To buy a Habitat home, families go through an orientation, and eligible families are placed in a matching pool. While waiting for a home, they’re required to take 11 classes covering insurance, financial fitness, and home and yard maintenance — often new for people coming from living situations where landlords have that responsibility.

Ultimately, families are matched to a home based on their preferences and other considerations — access to work, proximity to school, number of bedrooms — to make sure it’s the right fit.

“We want to put them in a situation where they’ll succeed,” said Haugen.

This is a process St. Paul resident Khou Vang knows inside and out. She still lives in the Habitat home her parents purchased 11 years ago and now works with the organization as a homeowner training and engagement liaison.

“I always knew I wanted to come back to Habitat, either volunteering or even to get a job,” said Vang. “The volunteers are fabulous. I want to surround myself with these amazing people.”

News of the job felt the same as when her mom was selected for a home, she said. “When I told my mom, she was super excited.”

Families are required to put in 300-500 hours of sweat equity by volunteering. So at age 15 Vang learned how to sheetrock, paint, mud the walls, sand and prime the deck — of which she was very proud. These are skills that have been helpful ever since.

“Home ownership is a continuous thing. You gotta mow the lawn, clean the gutters, re-caulk the bathrooms,” she said. “You own a home, you’re responsible for it. It’s never ending.”

Now she teaches this to families who have been matched to a home, helping ensure they fulfill their requirements, earn equity hours, and complete their training.

Vang remembers the day she moved with her mom, Chong Xiong, and her dad, Chong Ly Vang, her three sisters, Sia, Sherry and Julie, and her brother Shoua, from a six-unit apartment building to their new home. She had just a box of her own things. It soon sunk it that she had space and could have people over in their backyard.

“I love to grill,” she said. “It’s what everybody dreams about, having your own place, having family and friends over.”

Their volunteer mentor has become a family friend who still comes over to help, which Vang cherishes. “I think that’s why I’m here. I want families to have the same experience my family did.”

Vang thinks the new location will be a lot easier for families and help make a better connection with the community.

“I’m always in awe of what the families do to stay part of the program,” said Vang. “They drop everything. They’re really focused. They use vacation hours. They do whatever they can.”

In a brief walk-through Mary Schumacher, chief operating officer, showed the reception area with a fireplace made of bricks reclaimed from the site. She said a quilt was being made – also by volunteers – using fabric given by each family that will be displayed behind the front desk. There will be a space for kids to play while their parents are signing a mortgage or taking care of other business.

The excitement, as people see the space come together, is palpable.

“The building is going to look amazing. I’m very excited for the families to come see us,” said Vang. “You move in, it’s the same thing as with moving into a new home.”

About a quarter of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity homes are in St. Paul. It is one of 30 affiliates in Minnesota.


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Como Golf Club members hope course will remain

Posted on 08 October 2013 by robwas66

There are not many straight putts on the rolling, well-bunkered greens of Como Golf Course. Water hazards and elevation changes add to the subtle challenge and beauty of the layout. The course is one of four operated by the city of St. Paul.  (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

There are not many straight putts on the rolling, well-bunkered greens of Como Golf Course. Water hazards and elevation changes add to the subtle challenge and beauty of the layout. The course is one of four operated by the city of St. Paul. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)


What would the Como Golf Course be used for if it wasn’t a golf course?

That’s the question on the minds of the folks who play golf there.

They’ve heard that the city of St. Paul is talking about repurposing the 18-hole golf course that has been nestled next to the zoo and conservatory since 1929. Parks and Recreation has requested that the city allocate $100,000 in its 2014 budget to study the issue.

Would the space be used for more parking? Would it be park land? Would the zoo or conservatory expand? Would it be pared down to a 9-hole course?

Ask a member of either the men’s or women’s golf clubs at Como if they support repurposing the golf course and the answer is a resounding “No.”

“It would be such a sad thing to do,” said Como Women’s Club member Amy Winkel.

She added, “This is like the Central Park of St. Paul. Why would you ever get rid of this greenery? Once you get rid of a green space, you never get it back.”

Winkel pointed out hikers enjoy the paths in the summer, and in the winter people sled and cross country ski on the course.

“You lose sight of the fact that you’re in the city,” said Como Men’s Golf Club Vice President Tom Dapper. “It’s a nice little oasis. It’s just tucked away.”

The men’s and women’s clubs reserve the course on Saturdays and Sundays from 7:30 to 10am, but aside from those hours it is open to the public.


Rick Zieman lives just over the hill from the golf course, and has golfed at Como since 1974. He thinks that the zoo, conservatory and golf course function well together. “You take any of that away and you’ve wasted the whole area,” said Zieman.

He appreciates seeing seals and flamingos while he golfs, and added that 80% of the time he is at Como golfing he sees foxes. “You feel like you’re in a jungle sometimes,” Zieman said.

“I never get tired of playing here,” said Ruthie Pallow, a member of the women’s club, which will be celebrating its 80th anniversary next year.

“I love the course,” said Tom Davis, who golfs at Como with his son, Ben. “It’s so convenient.” He currently drives in from Shoreview to play at Como, but said he wouldn’t continue to do so if it were pared down to a 9-hole course.

Mike McDonald is a member at the University of Minnesota golf course nearby, but golfs more frequently at the Como course. “Como has much more character,” McDonald explained.

“Como Golf Course gives people a chance to play golf with the people in their community,” observed Como Ranger Dan John. “St. Paul is an old town and this is an old course with all the amenities you need.”

He added, “It’s a great place to learn to play golf. It’s a tough course. If you can play here, you can play anywhere.”

John doesn’t think that the city has solicited enough input from people who play golf at the course and should involve them more before any decisions are made.


Why is the city considering a repurpose of the Como Golf Course? As presented at public meeting earlier this year, golf course use is dropping and the city doesn’t feel it can operate four courses any longer.

Golf club members think that problem could be solved by lowering the prices at Como. “If the city reduced the price to be competitive with outside courses, people wouldn’t drive 20 miles,” said Zieman.

Golf club members also suggest that more marketing be done, particularly early in the season. Zieman pointed out that recently a Groupon enticed people to Como, but he doesn’t think it was as valuable as it could have been because there are only a few weeks left in the season.

A letter being distributed by Como Golf Club members suggests that the decline is cyclical and may soon improve.

According to the letter: “During these days we do dispute Como’s implied lack of viability and are disappointed by lack of effort on the part of Parks & Recreation to make concerted efforts to market and distinguish Como’s advantages from other courses in the metropolitan area.

“Assurances were made in spring 2012 to representatives of both this club, and those from Highland and Phalen, for implementation of innovative promotional efforts toward generating increased course use. From inquiry and observation, such actions did not occur in any notable way. We wish to see genuine efforts made in this regard before any firm decision is made on Como’s fate.”

Como golfers also question whether the debt the city owes for renovating Highland National several years ago is making Como’s financials look worse than they really are.

“We pretty much break even,” pointed out Dapper.

“I don’t think it is the performance of the club that’s the issue,” said Dapper.

He thinks that the city is getting pressured to provide more parking for the zoo.

Dapper pointed out that it is only fair that whatever else “be suggested as alternatives to the golf course be held to the same standard in terms of financial performance.”


In an effort to save the course, both the men’s and women’s golf clubs at Como are attending city and district meetings to encourage city representatives to keep the golf course as it is now. District 6 has expressed its support.

The clubs are also working to address any rumors floating around. Dapper pointed out that no decision on the golf course had been made by the city.

“We encourage people to come out here, whether to play golf or have a pop, pizza or sandwich. Sit on the deck and relax,” said Dapper.




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Voters to choose new mayor, Ward 1 Council member, and new School Board members

Posted on 08 October 2013 by robwas66

Chris Coleman (left) is running for re-election for mayor of Saint Paul while Tim Holden (right) is one of three candidates who are running against Coleman. Not pictured: candidates Kurt Dornfeld and Sharon Anderson.

Chris Coleman (left) is running for re-election for mayor of Saint Paul while Tim Holden (right) is one of three candidates who are running against Coleman. Not pictured: candidates Kurt Dornfeld and Sharon Anderson.


An open Council seat in Ward 1 that has drawn seven candidates, a school board race in which voters will elect three out of five people running and a mayoral race with an incumbent running ahead of three challengers, sets the scene for the Nov. 5 election in St. Paul.

When Ward 1 council member Melvin Carter III left his position in July to accept a state appointment, Nathaniel Khaliq, former director of St. Paul NAACP, stepped in to fill the void.

With two years of Carter’s term remaining, a special election is being held. Running for the office are Paul Holmgren, with city Republican endorsement; Johnny Howard, an activist with Green Party endorsement; Kazoua Kong-Thao, a former member of the St. Paul School Board; Debbie Montgomery, a former one-term city council member and retired police officer; Noel Nix, an activist who was Carter III’s aide; Dai Thao, an IT manager who supports progressive causes; and Mark Voerding, an aide to County Commissioner Janice Rettman. The DFL party did not endorse any of the candidates.

The school board race features two incumbents, John Brodrick and Jean O’Connell, both with DFL endorsement. The other DFL-endorsed candidate is Chue Vue, an attorney and former chair of the Hmong American Partnership. Also running are Terrance Bushard, who ran for city council in 2007, and Greg Copeland, the chair of the St. Paul Republican City Committee.

Although Chris Coleman is ahead in his race for mayor of Saint Paul, the three candidates who are running against him have some strong opinions on their reasons for running and the challenges that face the next mayor.

His closest competitor, Tim Holden, said he has become increasingly concerned about the light rail along University Avenue.

“The lack of business input, lack of concern for parking spaces lost, accessibility for seniors and disabled, and the businesses that struggled or finally closed their doors compelled me to run for mayor of St. Paul,” Holden declared. “I knew someone had to stand up to City Hall and speak for the small businesses of St. Paul and my friends and colleagues encouraged me to be that person.”

Holden pointed to his success as a realtor and general contractor as preparing him for the mayoral office. “I needed to first listen to what my clients wanted. Together we created the plan that would fulfill their dreams. I bring those same skills of listening first, presenting a plan, refining it, and drawing on the skills of the best people to complete the plan,” he explained.

“The biggest challenge facing the mayor today is to recreate trust between City Hall and the people of St. Paul,” Holden said. “Every neighborhood deserves to have schools that educate their children, to feel safe in their homes and neighborhood, to have their streets maintained. Listening, creating a plan, using the best ideas, going back to listen some more, refining the plan and then implementing it is a challenge I am willing to take on.”

Kurt Dornfeld said he feels the government is like a runaway train, heading for a wreck, and that is why he chose to run.

“We are spending like it’s going out of style, from the president down to local government,” he said. “We are heading for a train wreck.” He expressed concern about the things that money is spent on.

“We drive around on roads with potholes that haven’t been fixed up,” he said, citing a lack of funding there. Dornfeld works for the City of Saint Paul in street maintenance.

“I don’t know what the qualifications for mayor are, but I know the town pretty good,” Dornfeld said. “There are a lot of empty buildings downtown, and we need to get businesses back to St. Paul.”

He also cited the need to stop crime and murder, noting black on black crime. “We need to do that not only here, but throughout the United States,” he said.

“You don’t see too much about Big Brother (program) any more. That had good intent. We need to figure something out, that’s for sure,” Dornfeld said.

He said he has never been an elected official before, and spends many hours at work, which does not leave him a lot of time to campaign.

If elected, he said he would like to meet with mayors of different cities in the United States. “We need to track the welfare people, so they don’t come from one city to another, like Chicago to St. Paul. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it’s my and your tax dollars being spent.”

For candidate Sharon Anderson, the mayor’s race is one of many she has entered since the 1970s, running for public office numerous times.

She cited issues regarding the Police Department, separation of powers, cities risk management insurance and corporate welfare as her reasons for joining this race.

“My strongest qualifications as a candidate are honest, good moral character, and the fact that I am a VA widow and whistleblower,” she said.

She sees disparate treatment of seniors, the disabled and high payments by the Police Department for use of excessive force as challenges facing the next mayor.

The difficult challenges over the past seven years, according to Coleman, have included the worst economy in decades, political uncertainty and dwindling state and federal revenues for cities.

But he claimed the tough decisions that have been made have resulted in a structurally balanced budget the last several years.

“For example, in spite of state funding cuts and the economic challenges of recent years, not one police officer or firefighter has lost his or her job,” Coleman affirmed.

He said that if re-elected as mayor, he will put public safety and other core city services first.

“My record shows that in tough economic times, we have worked hard to make sure we are using city funds in the best possible way to provide the quality services residents have come to expect,” Coleman said. “We have been proactive and strategic about creating a 21st-century transit program that links people with jobs.”

“One of our top goals must be to work with the school district to become a national model of how to close the persistence of any achievement gap between white students and students of color,” Coleman emphasized.

He cited a new initiative called “Right Track” that has local businesses engaging with students to develop workplace skills. St. Paul’s Youth Job Corps, the school district and Genesys Works are also partners.

“Together, we are simultaneously providing a better education and preparing kids to be active in a 21st-century workplace,” Coleman said.

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German Immersion School settles into renovated facilities

Posted on 08 October 2013 by robwas66

Construction may not have moved as quickly as anticipated, but the students at the Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) are settling in to their renovated facilities at their new location at 1031 Como Ave.  The school recently celebrated International Peace Day on Sept. 21, and students created pinwheels, writing their thoughts about peace on one side and decorating the other side with drawings about peace.

Construction may not have moved as quickly as anticipated, but the students at the Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) are settling in to their renovated facilities at their new location at 1031 Como Ave. The school recently celebrated International Peace Day on Sept. 21, and students created pinwheels, writing their thoughts about peace on one side and decorating the other side with drawings about peace.


Construction may not have moved as quickly as anticipated, but the students at the Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) are settling in to their renovated facilities at their new location at 1031 Como Ave.

The site is the former home of St. Andrews Catholic Church and parochial school. The plan has been to renovate those two buildings and connect them with a new, 20,000-square foot addition.

The school, which offers all of its classes in the German language, has been steadily growing and looking for a bigger and more permanent home for its K-8 students. TCGIS had spent the last few years in a 90-year-old office building at 1745 University Ave.

“The renovation of the school is 99 per cent complete,” reported Ann Jurewicz, the school’s director. She said the former church building is being used as a gym and auditorium, with a cafeteria in the basement. The entire school program for the 300-plus students is being taught in the former parochial school.

“What remains is the construction to build a connection that will connect the school to the church, to have one continuous building,” Jurewicz said.

She explained that construction has fallen behind due to unforeseen issues.

“When we were digging out an area, we came across foundations that were built in the 1950s and had to be removed,” Jurewicz said. She added that power also had to be rerouted.

“We’re inheriting a couple of older buildings,” she continued, “with renovations and construction that can be unpredictable. But we are moving on to stage two, the new addition.”

The rectory of the old church was removed to provide parking for the school’s 36 staff members. The current parking lot on the site is being changed to provide a playscape for the children.

“We are getting used to the buildings and community,” Jurewicz said. “We have no busing currently, so there is a lot of carpooling. Overall, we are getting into the rhythm and routine of the neighborhood.”

She said the area has experienced a change from a site that sat vacant for three years to a building filled with 370 children.

“It’s a lot of changes and adjustment for everybody, but our big goal is to build a positive relationship,” she said. Jurewicz said that council member Amy Brendmoen lives right across the street from the school and has been very supportive.

“When we put construction updates on our website, she also puts them online,” Jurewicz said.

“Construction is going slower than we had hoped, and there have been some challenges,” Lenburg admitted, “but everyone is working together to make it work.”

“Our core mission is to have our students be active and engaged in world citizenship,” she emphasized. “An excellent way to reach out was through International Peace Day. It set the tone for what we want to contribute and create for the Como community.”

International Peace Day was adopted five years ago by the United Nations, according to Amy Lenburg, an art teacher at TCGIS. A project called Pinwheels for Peace had been created by a teacher in Florida, and Lenburg thought it would be a good idea for her students to follow.

“International Peace Day was Sept. 21, a Saturday, so we created the pinwheels the Friday before,” she said. “I had students in K-4th grade decorate the pinwheels in class, writing their thoughts about peace on one side and decorating the other side with drawings about peace.”

Lenburg said the students then went outside, joined with the music teacher in singing an Israeli peace song and marching around with the pinwheels. They then placed the pinwheels, 250 of them, in the front yard of the school.

“At the end of the day, I got the middle school class, and we walked the neighborhood, distributing the pinwheels,” Lenburg added. “We spread peace around. It was a good way to introduce ourselves to the neighborhood.”

Resident Kristi Herman Hill, who lives right next door to the school, agreed that the distribution of pinwheels was a wonderful introductory gesture.

“I was just getting home, and as I pulled up a little girl was putting a pinwheel on our retaining wall,” she explained. “She smiled and waved and ran away. I saw the greeting, sending a message of peace to the neighborhood. On Friday, after a long week, it was such a nice thing to do.”

Herman Hill said it has been an adjustment with the new school, with a long summer of ongoing construction.

“There were days when our walls were shaking,” she recalled. “But in general, the neighborhood is glad the building is being occupied by such a great place as the school. There could have been much worse uses for that building, and I know the school is going to be a great neighbor.”

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